We all love a good dance movie. No one can deny the feel goodness of Footloose or the sexy hips of Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing. But when you are a dancer, dance movies are so much more. They encourage you to keep going when times get tough, they remind you of what you are working towards and they help you remember all the reasons you fell in love with dance in the first place.
For me, these four dance movies started my love for movement and performance from a very young age.
This was the first dance movie I ever watched. I think I must have first seen it when I was around 7. Don’t worry, my dad fast-forwarded through the adult scenes. This movie truly set my childhood self’s soul on fire. After that, I dreamed of being accepted into Juilliard and wowing them with my unique style the same way Jennifer Beal did in the movie. That end scene is truly ICONIC. I still get goosebumps remembering it.
Funny story, I did relive this moment in my own way when I auditioned for a prestigious arts high school with a rigorous dance program. I remember strutting in there with my zero ballet training and thought I would be accepted based on my freestyle dance to a Shakira song. It’s hilarious to remember. They did tell my father that I had talent, just not the kind they were looking for.
I’d also like to shoutout Jennifer Lopez for immortalizing the movie Flashdance in her music video I’m Glad in 2002. That truly made me adore her even more.
Moulin Rouge! 2001
This movie might not be classified as a dance movie. It’s a musical. But Moulin Rouge will go down as one of my Top 5 Favourite Movies of All Time and there is dancing in it. So to me, it counts. This movie has it all; a tragic love story, incredible outfits, and amazing music (Lady Marmalade anyone!?). It’s got it all. Plus Ewan McGregor’s smile is just so dreamy.
This was the first movie to exposed me to burlesque. Female performers dressed up as sexual seductresses in their dazzling jewelry and their cinched corsets. The way they would dance and perform for the attention of men was so intriguing to me as a young girl. I longed for that kind of attention (innocently). I yearned to dress up like them in their boudoirs decked out in feather boas and sequins and tassels and silks. Their rituals of adorning themselves before their shows were intoxicating. Little did I know that around 10 years later I would be performing around clubs in revealing lingerie. This movie fuelled my passion for performance.
Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights 2004
I have a confession to make. I watched this movie before I saw the original Dirty Dancing movie. Yes, I know it’s such a famous dance film and therefore might have replaced this movie on my list, but alas, Havana Nights will forever have my heart.
This was one of the first times I was introduced to Latin music and Latin ballroom dance. The way that Javier shows Katey how to dance to their Latin music was breathtaking. The way she loosens up and dips into her sexuality was so enticing. This movie made me fall in love with Latin music and Latin culture. And it’s still on my list to learn more Latin ballroom styles. I live for the closeness, the sensuality, the fluidity of the movement and the power behind the steps.
My favourite scene is the one just before the credits roll where Katey goes to the club with Javier on her last night there and they just have such a good time dancing. There is such freedom and passion in her movement and it makes you just wanna get up and dance too.
Step Up 2006
Ahh, the dance movie of my grade 9 year. So many good memories, mostly because I joined our school’s little dance team. Never before had I been included in any sort of dance community and getting to hang out with fellow dancers and call myself a dancer really boosted my confidence as a teen. When Step Up came out and I feel like everyone went to see it! I remember watching it and feeling so happy to be a part of a dance team but I still wished I could be in a school dedicated to the arts.
As luck would have it I did get accepted into an art school in grade 11 and then I finally got to live my own Step Up life. Dance classes every morning, musical theatre classes in the afternoon and drama rehearsals after school. Fun fact, I still love this soundtrack.
The best scene in this movie was of course the amazing end performance that they put together. But I have a soft spot for the scene where Tyler and Nora are alone on the rooftop dancing and starting to fall in love.
Some Honourable Mentions
There are so many more dance movies that influenced me and my love for dance, so here’s a couple more.
Coyote Ugly 2000 – This one fuelled the gogo dancer in me. Every time I dance on a bar it brings me back to this movie and I feel so badass!
Save The Last Dance 2001 – This movie made me want to tear up clubs as an 11-year-old. I’m still pretty heartbroken there aren’t any places like Steps these days. As good as this movie was, watching it back now I can say that the choreography in that last dance scene is a little cringy.
Chicago 2002 – Another famous musical that I can’t forget. This had the most sensational wardrobe and clean dance numbers. Also, let’s not forget that I had the honour of playing Velma Kelly in our grade 11 rendition of Cell Block Tango, such an iconic number.
Honey 2003 – I may have only seen this movie once (whereas the other films I have seen multiple times) but I fell in love with a young and hip Jessica Alba and her cute little moves. I also feel the need to say that I have had the pleasure of being taught by Jessica Alba’s body-double from that movie; Jessica Castro.
Take the Lead 2006 – Similar plot to Save the Last Dance and Step Up, this one has a Latin ballroom twist that I found unique. I also loved the way they combined the style of hip hop and Latin ballroom together at the end of this movie.
Burlesque 2010 – This was the last dance movie that I remember enjoying. Similar to Moulin Rouge in the old school performance style that they were showcasing in their nightly shows. I’ve always dreamed of being a part of a troupe like this. Plus a movie with Christina Aguilera performing her incredible voice alongside legendary Cher was iconic.
Now let me be clear, this list is mine alone. There are many notable dance movies that I have not mentioned (for everyone screaming at me for leaving out Centre Stage). And there are many more dance movies, both old and new, that I have yet to watch.
Dance movies truly never get old to me. There is such dedication to the art form that I truly appreciate (when done right). To me, these will always be the movies I watch when I’m feeling down and they will always bring back such happy memories.
I’m curious to hear what your top 4 dance movies are! Tell me in the comments below.